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Monday, June 16, 2014

Jim Bunning: Cubs’ sale at odds with MLB antitrust exemption

Jim Bunning: “You can’t fool the people that long.” Sweet fuctwa! Bunning’s been winning elections since 1977!

If anyone in the U.S. House or Senate decides to bring another challenge to Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption, the Cubs’ sale to the Ricketts family could become part of the case, former lawmaker Jim Bunning said.

Bunning, the baseball Hall of Famer who later led multiple threats and challenges to MLB’s exemption as a seven-term congressman and two-term senator, isn’t convinced there’s anyone left in Washington willing to take up that issue.

...“That’s where you could get something,” Bunning, who was in Philadelphia for a throwback weekend, said of a challenge to the exemption. “If somebody like Mark Cuban wants to buy a team and offers something like $2 billion, and they tell him he can’t. If they made an exception for a specific sale, it would be against the antitrust laws [and spirit of the exemption].”

Multiple sources confirm the open secret when it comes to Cuban and baseball: MLB wants no part of an outspoken, deep-pockets owner who might drive up player salaries and challenge the establishment.

The impact on the Cubs was a highly leveraged partnership purchase by a secondary bidder that has crippled the team’s short-term spending ability because of the biggest debt burden in the game, along with spending restrictions through related bank covenants.

...However, the actual business practices of the team — which include sacrificing seasons to stock the farm system while charging the third-highest ticket prices in the game — don’t rise to actionable levels, Bunning said.

“If you want to buy tickets to a baseball game and go to Wrigley Field and see a Double-A or Triple-A team, that’s your choice,” he said.

But the fact that skyrocketing media-rights deals allow some teams to ignore fans and make winning a secondary concern — because attendance is no longer the top-line revenue source — has the potential to stir outrage if it becomes a trend, Bunning suggested. Especially for an industry that expects to cross the $9 billion mark in revenues this year.

“That’s bad for the Cubs, it’s bad for baseball, it’s bad for the league as a whole,” Bunning said.

Outrage often has been the catalyst for lawmakers to examine ways to threaten a 92-year-old exemption that was the dubious result of a lawsuit by the defunct Federal League and has survived only through MLB’s acquiescence when challenged by the likes of Bunning.

It was the hammer lawmakers used to push for steroid-testing reform in baseball a decade ago.

“I’m not sure there’s anyone in the Senate or Congress left who knows baseball has an exemption,” Bunning cracked.

Much less outrage over what’s going on in places such as Chicago.

“You can’t fool the people that long,” he said. “If the Cubs don’t become competitive, they might as well close the doors.”

Repoz Posted: June 16, 2014 at 09:06 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, cubs

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: June 16, 2014 at 11:27 AM (#4727233)
My recollection is that Cuban's own admission was that his bid involved some creative financing and it now seems clear that TribCorp had a very specific requirement with how the sale had to be structured.

MLB may indeed be keeping Cuban away from owning a team but the sale of the Cubs is a poor example.
   2. bobm Posted: June 16, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4727365)
50th anniversary of Bunning's perfect game commemorated

FIFTY FATHER'S Days since the best one a pitcher could ever envision, Jim Bunning took the mound at Citizens Bank Park.

Yesterday afternoon, before Philadelphia capped its six-game homestand, the Phillies commemorated Bunning's perfect game on Father's Day of 1964. Sporting a throwback No. 14 jersey, Bunning was joined on the field by former teammates Dick Allen and Cookie Rojas, both of whom were in the lineup that June 21 day at Shea Stadium. [...]

Bunning, a father of nine, afterward joked about his ceremonial first pitch, which he tossed well wide of a crouching Larry Bowa.

"Obviously, from the pitch that I threw, you can tell I haven't touched a ball in 6 years," he said with a laugh.
   3. JRVJ Posted: June 16, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4727521)
Wasn't Bunning a little funny in the cabezo?
   4. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: June 16, 2014 at 04:04 PM (#4727616)
I don't remember him in a gazebo.

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